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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Pretending that the refugee crisis is going to disappear is “futile, foolish”, and turning vulnerable people away from the UK “simply shifts the burden to those less able to bear it”, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams has warned.
He was speaking at a multifaith gathering at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London, on Monday, to mark the release of an open letter to the Prime Minister, signed by more than 200 religious leaders, some of whom were also in attendance (above). It calls on the Government to accommodate more refugees in the UK more quickly, and, in particular, to reunite families that have been separated by conflict.
“The pace in responding to the refugee crisis seems very slow,” Lord Williams said. “We have had months of discussion on the subject of reuniting children with parents, and as yet have remarkably little to show for it.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Immigration * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Our visit to Syria has been attacked in the Press for giving a "war criminal" (that is, Bashar al-Assad) a photo opportunity and a tool for propaganda. In fact, it was a pastoral visit to the people of Syria, especially Christians, who have suffered so much at the hands of jihadist extremists.
Their ancient churches have been destroyed, they have been killed in their own homes and driven out of their ancient communities. Anna (not her real name), who still speaks the Aramaic of Jesus as her native language, told us of how the rebels (some belonging to the so- called "moderate opposition") dragged out her brother and cousin and shot them dead before her eyes for refusing to convert to Islam. They then shot and wounded her, leaving her for dead.
This is why the leadership of all the churches in Syria, including Syrian Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Armenian and Evangelical is unanimous in its opposition to the extremists and in its advocacy of peaceful change in the land.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Syria * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
But the law left critics, including some Christian lawmakers, embittered, warning that it will maintain Christian's second-class status. The Coptic Orthodox Church, to which most Egyptian Christians belong, had at first opposed the bill but later backed it—and critics say it bent to heavy government pressure.
Under the law passed Tuesday, Christians must apply to the local provincial governor when they want to build a church.
The law stipulates that the size of the church must be "appropriate" to the number of Christians in the area. According to an official supplement to the law, the governor should also take into account "the preservation of security and public order" when considering the application.
The law "empowers the majority to decide whether the minority has the right to hold their religious practices," said Ishaq Ibrahim, a top researcher in the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Egypt * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
We are not told which officials in which diocese have issued this warning, but it is advice which needs to be ignored. To heed such guidance is to surrender to fanatical Islamists; to conceal one’s Christian faith out of fear of the consequences; to hide one’s light under a bushel in order not to provoke some hot-headed Muslim extremist to combat.
Easy for someone to say who’s not in danger of being a target, you may say. But what have we become if we relinquish the vestments of our national faith out of fear of the adherents of another religion? What is ceded? Who is appeased? Where is the victor and who is the vanquished?
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Economics, Politics Terrorism * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
People from all faiths, backgrounds and traditions have come together today as a show of solidarity at a multifaith service at the Anglican Parish of Gosford.
The service was led by Central Coast Anglican Archdeacon Rod Bower and also featured the Islamic Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, local Buddhist leader Gen Kelsang Dawa and Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson.
It was organised as a response to the protest by a group of right-wing extremists from the Party of Freedom who posed as Muslims and stormed a sermon by Gosford Anglican priest Father Bower recently.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Australia * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations * Theology
There’s been a lot of negative campaign language about Islam this election season—calls for banning Muslims from entering the US and for patrolling Muslim neighborhoods. But there are also serious attempts to oppose anti-Muslims rhetoric. Correspondent Kim Lawton reports on efforts in Nashville, Tennessee to counter hateful speech by building personal relationships between Christians and Muslims. She talks with Rev. Josh Graves, pastor of an evangelical megachurch and author of How Not to Kill a Muslim: A Manifesto of Hope for Christianity and Islam in North America, along with Muslim community leaders who are participating in the bridge-building efforts.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology
Could the jihadists inspired by Islamic State stoop any lower? Father Jacques Hamel was 85 years old. His young attackers reportedly attempted to behead him in front of the altar of his church. They failed in that but succeeded in killing him and in proving, once again, that an evil is stalking the continent and it is willing to plumb any depths in its attempts to terrorise and enslave us.
Christians in other parts of the world will not have been surprised at the blood spilt in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen. Some feel that we, in the West, have turned our backs on their sufferings. “We feel forgotten and isolated,” complained Louis Sako, the Chaldean Archbishop of Baghdad: “We sometimes wonder, if they kill us all, what would be the reaction of Christians in the West? Would they do something then?”
While estimates of the global scale of religious slaughter and harassment differ wildly, there is enough evidence to suggest that religious persecution is widespread and growing. The Open Doors charity is a respected and relatively cautious chronicler of persecution and it estimates that an average of 322 Christians are killed every month as a direct consequence of their faith, while 214 churches or Christian properties are demolished, burnt down or in some way destroyed. Overall, Open Doors records, Christians are subject to 772 acts of violence — including beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests or forced marriages — each month.
Read it all (requires subscription).
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Terrorism * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
As for Mrs May, she recently (in her old job as home secretary) raised secularist hackles by the emollient terms in which she announced an 18-month enquiry into the operation of Islamic family law in Britain, led by a distinguished Muslim academic, Mona Siddiqui. The adjudication of divorce and inheritance matters by "sharia councils" does pose a dilemma for many liberal-democratic governments. On one hand, Britain (unlike France) allows people to bequeath their property to anybody they choose, and if they choose to make a will on Islamic principles that is formally speaking a free exercise of this entitlement. On the other, a person who grows up deep inside a traditional Muslim sub-culture may feel under overwhelming pressure to accept the adjudication of family affairs on Islamic lines, so there are questions about how free the choice really is.
For secularists (and for Christians of a more militant hue), Mrs May spoke too mildly when she responded by suggesting that the only problem lay in the abuse of a phenomenon which was in itself neutral or benign. What she said, inter alia, was: “Many British people of different faiths follow religious codes and practices, and benefit a great deal from the guidance they offer. [However] a number of women have reportedly been victims of what appear to be discriminatory decisions taken by Sharia councils, and that is a significant concern."
Secularists immediately retorted that some aspects of Islamic family law (for example giving a woman half the inheritance rights of a man, and making it much easier for a man to initiate divorce) are intrinsically discriminatory; the problem lies in the rules, not in their unfair application.
But for someone of Mrs May’s background, there can be no rush to judgment. More than her secularist colleagues, she finds it self-evident that some groups in society can find comfort in “codes and practices” as well as texts, rituals and traditions which seem alien to outsiders.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Leaders of Britain’s main faith communities have united in condemning intolerance amid mounting reports of xenophobic and racist abuse in the wake of the EU referendum result.
The Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, the chief rabbi and senior imams have all spoken out against division and expressions of hatred.
In Brussels, the United Nations human rights chief said he was deeply concerned about reports of attacks on minority communities and foreigners. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein urged the UK authorities to prosecute those responsible, saying racism and xenophobia were “completely, totally and utterly unacceptable in any circumstances”.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Roman Catholic Other Faiths Islam Judaism * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava: “All dharmas [truths, or religions] are equally valid.” Indians often cite this noble maxim, which was popularized by Mahatma Gandhi, and the country’s constitution remains firmly secular and democratic. In recent years, though, the country’s religious outlook has darkened to the point that minorities—including both Christians and Muslims—face dangers of severe persecution and violence.
The fact that that threat receives little attention in the West says much about our stereotypes of other world religions. If we saw a situation where tens of millions of Christians were being similarly maltreated by a Muslim regime, Western media and policy makers would speak out vigorously. But when the enemies of religious liberty are Hindu, members of a faith that Americans idealize, the public silence is deafening.
Although India’s Christians do not represent a large proportion of the country’s vast population—only about 3 percent—they number about 40 million, comparable to the larger European nations. India’s Christians suffer from multiple disadvantages, especially because so many derive from people of low or no caste or from tribal communities on the margins of Hindu society. Official reluctance to accept the reality of conversions makes it difficult to assess the true extent of Christian numbers.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Asia India * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Other Faiths Hinduism * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
A growing number of Muslim refugees in Europe are converting to Christianity, according to churches, which have conducted mass baptisms in some places.
Reliable data on conversions is not available but anecdotal evidence suggests a pattern of rising church attendance by Muslims who have fled conflict, repression and economic hardship in countries across the Middle East and central Asia.
Complex factors behind the trend include heartfelt faith in a new religion, gratitude to Christian groups offering support during perilous and frightening journeys, and an expectation that conversion may aid asylum applications.
Read it all and don't miss the great picture.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Soteriology
More recently, Notre Dame historian George Marsden — a self-described “Augustinian Christian” and so something close to an evangelical, whatever that still means — has argued in his book “The Twilight of the American Enlightenment” that religious traditionalists and secularist liberals can avoid a great deal of acrimony by defenestrating the midcentury idea of a “neutral” public sphere and instead adopting what he and others have termed “principled pluralism.” More recently still, in his new book “The Fractured Republic,” the scholar and journalist Yuval Levin, a Jewish social conservative, has counseled both religious conservatives and secularist liberals that they can repair our dysfunctional politics by comprehending the implications of this one essential truth: that American society is no longer the consolidated unit it once was but a diffuse assortment of subcultures.
True, many religious social conservatives still think it’s their duty to take America back, their disposition expressed in the fierce eloquence of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). But many do not. Many have finally given up on the whole idea of a culture war or are willing to admit they lost it. They are determined only to remain who they are and to live as amiably and productively as they can in a culture that doesn’t look like them and doesn’t belong to them.
In time, this shift in outlook may bring about a more peaceable public sphere. But that will depend on others — especially the adherents of an ascendant social progressivism — declining to take full advantage of their newfound cultural dominance. I see few signs of that, but I am hopeful all the same.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Philosophy Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Secularism * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
This isn’t the headline in most of the UK media, for some reason, which appears to prefer singling out Muslims and hijabs. There’s nothing quite like a bit of Islamomania in a morning to go with your toast and marmalade, is there? ‘Top EU court adviser backs workplace Muslim headscarf ban‘, says the BBC. ‘EU’s top judge backs workplace ban on headscarves‘, writes the Independent. ‘Senior EU lawyer backs workplace ban on Muslim headscarves‘, proclaims the Guardian., above a picture of Muslim women wearing sky-blue burqas (which the Guardian calls a ‘headscarf’) emblazoned with the stars of the EU flag. ‘Top European Union court adviser says employers should be allowed to ban Islamic headscarves‘, says the Evening Standard, while the Express goes with: ‘Bosses can ban Muslims wearing headscarves at work‘.
It’s left to the Telegraph to take a more equitable and accurate approach to headlines: ‘Bosses can ban headscarves and crucifixes, EU judge says‘, they write (noting that ‘crucifix’ sounds a bit meatier than ‘cross’ in the spectrum of hallowed bling). But even this doesn’t extend to kippahs, tichels, turbans or karas. Why not just say: ‘Bosses can ban religious clothing and jewellery in the workplace’? Or does that leave hanging the fuzzy question of facial hair? Should hirsute tendencies be exempt? If so, why?
The legal opinion (HERE in full) was issued by Juliane Kokott, an Advocate General to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), in response to clarification sought by a Belgian court on what precisely is banned under anti-discrimination laws, following the dismissal of a receptionist who refused her employer’s request not to wear her hijab at work.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Multiculturalism, pluralism Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
A distinguished man of religion stood up on May 26th in one of London’s most prestigious locations. He urged his listeners (who were mostly co-religionists, but also included great-and-good figures from many other faiths) to ponder some of the dilemmas of our times: for example, should society’s future direction be left to the free interplay of goods and ideas, or should the state take the leading role in healing our collective wounds? The answer, he concluded, was both approaches were deeply flawed. Neither the market nor the state would save the Western world unless its citizens rediscovered a sense of the common good rooted in deep cultural memories.
What’s so unusual about any of that, you might ask. Isn’t that the kind of stuff you would expect a religious leader to say? Actually, it is rather unusual for a Western champion of faith to strike that note in a public forum, and the interesting question is why.
As it turns out, the religious leader in question featured in Erasmus quite recently, but his receipt of one of philanthropy’s most renowned awards (the Templeton Prize, which acknowledges those who "affirm life’s spiritual dimension") seems a good enough reason to mention him again. He is Lord Jonathan Sacks, a former chief rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth and prolific author, most recently on religion and violence.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Multiculturalism, pluralism Religion & Culture Violence * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Judaism * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Stanley Ntagali, has warned against syncretism – the practice of merging different religious beliefs. The warning came after a prominent Christian politician made a public visit to her ancestral shrine to give thanks for her re-election – a practice in line with the country’s traditional religions.
“We value our ancestors because we are connected to them by the relationship we have,” Archbishop Ntagali said. “But, we must always trust only in God. We no longer need to go through the spirits of the dead because Jesus is our hope and protector. He alone is the way, the truth and the life, as Jesus says in John 14:6.
“The Church of Uganda condemns syncretism,” he said, as he urged bishops and clergy to “use this opportunity to proclaim the sufficiency of Christ crucified to meet all our needs, and to work pastorally with Christians to apply this glorious truth practically in their lives.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Uganda * International News & Commentary Africa Uganda * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths * Theology Christology
Christian morality is being ushered out of American social structures and off the cultural main stage, leaving a vacuum in its place—and the broader culture is attempting to fill the void. New research from Barna reveals growing concern about the moral condition of the nation, even as many American adults admit they are uncertain about how to determine right from wrong. So what do Americans believe? Is truth relative or absolute? And do Christians see truth and morality in radically different ways from the broader public, or are they equally influenced by the growing tide of secularism and religious skepticism?
A majority of American adults across age group, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status and political ideology expresses concern about the nation’s moral condition—eight in 10 overall (80%). The proportion is closer to nine in 10 among Elders (89%) and Boomers (87%), while about three-quarters of Gen-Xers (75%) and Millennials (74%) report concern. Similarly, practicing Christians (90%) are more likely than adults of no faith (67%) or those who identify with a religious faith other than Christianity (72%) to say they are concerned about the moral condition of the nation. Though measurable differences exist between population segments, moral concern is widespread across the demographic board.
Much less widespread, however, is consensus on morality itself. What is it based on? Where does it come from? How can someone know what to do when making moral decisions? According to a majority of American adults (57%), knowing what is right or wrong is a matter of personal experience. This view is much more prevalent among younger generations than among older adults.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Philosophy Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Secularism * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
With temperatures in the region of 40C/100F, Iraq is in a terrible way, both politically and economically. The parliament has not been meeting, there are violent protests in Baghdad, and the oil revenue is starting to dry up. Despite this, we are still working on the front line. Yesterday, Dr Sarah Ahmed, FRRME’s Director of Operations in the Middle East, gave out 25 kg bags of flour to over 1,000 Iraqi IDP families in Erbil, Northern Iraq.
Read it all and do not miss the pictures.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Economy Energy, Natural Resources * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq Israel Jordan * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The United States is in a cultural crisis. There are gaping fissures between the rich and poor, growing tensions between races, disunity among faith groups, increasing resentment between genders, and a vast and expanding gap between liberals and conservatives. Generation, gender, socioeconomics, ethnicity, faith, and politics massively divide the American population.
And the Christian community has not been immune. Just look at the current election cycle. Candidates like Donald Trump have fiercely divided faith “tribes,” especially evangelicals. In recent research on the presidential race, Barna found that the five unique personal faith segments in America—evangelicals, non-evangelical born again Christians, notional Christians, people associated with non-Christian faiths, and religious skeptics—hold substantially different attitudes and candidate preferences, causing deep tensions and divides.
This splintering and polarization of American culture has made it more difficult than ever to have a good conversation. In research conducted for David Kinnaman’s new book Good Faith, Barna discovered just how difficult it is for most people to reach across these cultural divides. Most Americans indicate that they think it would be difficult to have a natural and normal conversation with minority groups who are different than them.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking History Psychology * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken control of six churches in the war-torn southeastern city of Diyarbakir in his latest move to squash freedom of speech and religious movement.
The state-sanctioned seizure is just the latest in a number of worrying developments to come out of increasingly hardline Turkey, which is in advanced talks with the EU over visa-free travel for its 80 million citizens.
Included in the seizures are Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches, one of which is over 1,700 years old.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Turkey * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Anglican Archbishops of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have condemned an Easter Sunday suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan which killed at least 70 people.
"The targeting of the innocent, in this case Christians celebrating Easter, is the hallmark of terrorism and such cowardice should be condemned," the Archbishops said.
They said people of peace from all faiths should stand in solidarity to condemn the bombing.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Violence * International News & Commentary Asia Pakistan Australia / NZ * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
If we ask what is driving this assault on the free exercise of religious conviction, the answer is that it is in large part driven by a human rights agenda which sees religion and human rights as antithetical not simply on specific issues, but across the board. As the legal scholar Louis Herkin puts it: ‘The human rights ideology is a fully secular and rational ideology whose very promise of success as a universal ideology depends on its secularity and rationality.’
In addition, there is also deep seated fear about religiously inspired violence. The growing threat of terrorist activity driven by an Islamist ideology has led many governments across the world, including the government in this country, to conclude that religion can be dangerous and that the best way to counteract this danger is seek to suppress the dissemination of ‘extremist’ religious ideas.
What this combination of a secular rights ideology and fear of Islamic terrorism is in danger of leading to, if indeed it has not led to it already, is the undermining of the very rights that human rights advocates and Western governments say that they support.
Read it all (emphasis mine).
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Secularism * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Harvard University Episcopal pastor and chaplain Luther Zeigler said the Anglican view of the Christian hope in the afterlife is for a new age when heaven and earth merge in a newly created and embodied life.
"God will reframe the cosmos," Zeigler said. "We're not just mere bystanders in this re-creation but collaborators to make the kingdom real. Our job is to now become kingdom-bearers."
Several hundred people attended at three sessions Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the Joseph Smith Building Auditorium on campus. The conference was sponsored by BYU Religious Education's Office of Religious Outreach.
Read it all.
The people of Westworth United Church have already opened up their lives to Syrian Muslims, and now they’re inspired to open up their hearts.
"We thought because we are in the middle of a one-year sponsorship of Syrian refugees, this was the perfect opportunity to learn about Islam," says Rev. Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd about a five-week study series on Islam and Christianity.
Last fall, the River Heights church, along with members of Muslim and Jewish communities, sponsored six adults and 18 children from Syria. The multi-faith sponsorship group, called REFUGE, has raised about $100,000 of the $120,000 needed to sponsor these three families for their first 12 months in Canada.
Running during the Christian season of Lent, the 40 days before Easter, the free series covers topics such as violence, reading difficult passages in the Qur’an and the Bible, and issues of hate, violence and racism in both faiths, says MacKenzie Shepherd.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Adult Education * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Canada * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology
Now the new tolerance does not start with the assumption that there is such a thing as objective truth or objective right and wrong or objective beauty and ugliness. And, therefore, it does not start with the assumption that any given viewpoint or belief is objectively better than one that believes something different, because there is no objective truth or morality out there for an idea to conform to. And so the old tolerance becomes impossible. Tolerance no longer means defending a person’s freedom to tell me I am wrong, but now means renouncing the right to tell anyone they are wrong. The very concept of labeling a person’s idea as wrong or defective or harmful or evil is considered intolerant.
So the new tolerance is the requirement that nobody pass judgment on another person’s beliefs or ideas as less true, less right, less beautiful. And the reason I say this is a new form of intolerance is that in the new tolerance I am forbidden from expressing my belief that certain things are so; namely, that your beliefs are wrong or harmful — dangerous. In fact, the new tolerance sometimes goes so far as not just to forbid the expression of my belief that your belief is wrong, but goes further and forbids me even from believing that you are wrong because, they would say, believing that shows I am hateful and a danger to society and eventually may be locked away or punished in some other way for simply holding a viewpoint. If you want to read more about the development of this new tolerance, then Don Carson’s book The Intolerance of Tolerance is the place to go.
So my answer to the question that was asked is: Absolutely, Christians should be tolerant of other people’s religious beliefs; namely, with the old tolerance, not the new tolerance.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Multiculturalism, pluralism Philosophy Psychology Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths * Theology Apologetics Ethics / Moral Theology
In summary, said Dr. Anis, Christians who witness to Muslims must depend entirely on the Holy Spirit, and should be authentic, humble and generous in all their dealings. Muslims who convert frequently must pay a heavy price in loss of family relationships and everything they had held dear; the Christian community must be prepared to do all that it can to mitigate those losses. He closed his talk with a short film that showed the various kinds of Christian outreach his own diocese is sponsoring, with an emphasis on providing the best possible loving care to Egyptians from all walks of life in Christian-run hospitals, and offering testimonies from those whose lives had changed in consequence. God's love, shown to Muslims and others through freely given medical and other care, brings results on God's timetable. "Our job is to witness to Christ's love, to pay the price when asked, and to involve the local community of believers."
Another perspective on witnessing to Muslims was offered by Fouad Masri, a Lebanese-born, third-generation pastor who trained in the United States, and then in 1993 founded the Crescent Project, based in Indianapolis, through which he has taught more than 21,000 Christians how to share their faith sensitively and caringly with Muslims. He stressed that Muslims generally do not know what Christians believe, that they never read the Bible for themselves, and have repeatedly been told that it is unreliable (its text is, e.g., hopelessly corrupt in comparison with the Qu'ran that was dictated directly from Allah).
"Because you have been at this conference," he predicted, "God will put a Muslim in your path. Be an ambassador for your faith: represent it truly, humbly, and without apology or evasion. Be friendly -- don't criticize Muslim beliefs; build bridges, biblical bridges, from your faith to theirs, with which you can reach them. Invite them to your home, and share what you have. Remember that God, not us, makes people Christians; we are God's humble servants, and our involvement is His involvement with the world."
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * South Carolina * Theology Apologetics Christology The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Dr. William Lane Craig of Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California, opened the conference speaking about the concept of God in Islam and Christianity. Noting that the question “do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?” had recently been in the news, Craig instead sought to examine what each faith understood about who God is. The God of Islam, Craig determined, was deficient in the Christian view because he lacked the ability to love those who did not love him in return. Effectively, a God who loves sinners and a God incapable of loving sinners – indeed, even declared their enemy in verses of the Qur’an – were at their core sharply different.
Speakers encouraged participants to be relational in their interactions with Muslims, seeing them not as adversaries in an argument, but as people who might consider Christ by witnessing genuine love in the church.
“We have our own opportunities but we stay in our own clubs,” observed Lebanese-born pastor Fouad Masri about how few Muslims in the U.S. are invited into Christian homes. “Our job is to share — God makes people Christians, not us.”
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * Culture-Watch History Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Apologetics Christology The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
The theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is Don’t Stand by. It's a call not just to remember, but to act. But in order to act, we must remember. Remembering enables us to see that the Holocaust did not happen suddenly and it did not happen through the acts of a few. It happened through the silent collaboration of the many.
It's never been acceptable to claim that we don’t know because we can’t see. We cannot walk on by on the other side oblivious to the needs of our neighbours.
In the world we inhabit, the searchlight of an active media illuminates the dark recesses of the caricature, simplistic criticism and ridicule that leads inexorably to the dehumanising and degrading treatment of others. History shows clearly that, unopposed, this can lead to violent persecution and genocide.
But we're not called to be passive observers and silent accomplices to discrimination.
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I know, you forgot, or you are not sure. But here is a great (and amazingly timely) topic and a chance to visit one of America's great cities for worship and spiritual nourishment at the start of the year--KSH.
One of the greatest challenges for Christians at the dawn of the 21st century is the power and influence of Islam. As the world’s two great missionary religions, Christianity and Islam are often at odds with one another, and the tension can at times feel palpable. How are we as Christians to respond to the threat and challenge of this growing and energetic religion? What should be the Church’s reaction in light of the Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all men? What does the Apostle Paul mean when he reminds believers that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds”? Join us this year at Mere Anglicanism as we explore “The Cross and the Crescent: The Gospel and the Challenge of Islam.”
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“At a time of increasing fear and division in the world, it is ever more important that people of faith, Christians and Muslims, come together to work towards the common good for the betterment of all...."
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The Islamic State in October released a video that is a stomach-wrenching glimpse of the worst kind of religious repression. Three Syrian Christian men, one a doctor, are made to kneel in the desert in orange jumpsuits and state their religion. Behind each is an executioner who then uses a handgun to fire a bullet into the back of each Christian’s head.
Some Christian leaders in America want President Obama to declare that a genocide is underway against Christians in the Middle East. I don’t think I’d call it a genocide, but it is absolutely the religious version of an ethnic cleansing.
In 1910, Christians made up 14 percent of the population of the Middle East. Today they are about 4 percent, the result of emigration, lower birthrates — and religious repression that threatens the viability of Christianity in much of the region where it was born.
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Did you catch the subtle, but very important, difference between the lede and the actual quote from the document?
The lede says that it is wrong for Catholics – which would mean priests, laypeople and other Catholic individuals – to try to win Jewish individuals to Christian faith. But what does the document say? It says that the Catholic Church, as an institution, "neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews (italics added)."
So evangelism by individual Catholics talking with individual Jews is acceptable, while organized efforts targeting Jews alone – perhaps a Catholic version of Jews for Jesus – are considered out of bounds.
Thus, the headline and the lede need to be corrected to reflect the actual content of the story and the document on which it is based.
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Wheaton administrators insisted it was Hawkins' comments — not her decision to wear a hijab — that was at the root of the problem. She was asked to provide a theological response to several other statements as well, though the college did not provide details.
Denny Burk, a professor of biblical studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said his greatest concern about Hawkins' explanation was the lack of clarity about the particulars of Christianity. Without further explaining the nuances of her argument, she implicitly denied Christian teachings, he said.
"We're people of the book, but our books are very different," he said. "They're witnessing to two different ways of salvation. The Bible is witnessing to Jesus Christ, the son of God. That's unique of all the world religions, and that uniqueness was what I thought was missing from what she said."
But Miroslav Volf, a theology professor at Yale Divinity School and founding director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, praised Hawkins' gesture as extraordinary and an apt Advent devotion. He said her comments about Christians and Muslims worshipping the same God speak to the common ground the two religions share.
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Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical school in Illinois, has placed a professor on administrative leave after she posted on Facebook that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God.”
The official school statement Tuesday about associate professor of political science Larycia Hawkins’s suspension said Wheaton professors should “engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the College’s evangelical Statement of Faith.”
Following a protest and sit-in of about 100 people Wednesday afternoon on campus, President Philip Ryken and later Provost Stanton Jones said they would not be lifting the suspension. It wasn’t clear how long Hawkins was suspended for, but some of the student leaders who had been involved in talks with administrators said it was through the spring semester.
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Fifty years after the first major Catholic document rejecting anti-Semitism, the Vatican released a new document on Thursday reiterating that Catholics shouldn’t try to convert Jews and calling for a joint effort in the fight against religious discrimination.
Jewish leaders on hand for the Thursday presentation largely welcomed the document, although one complained that it doesn’t go far enough in recognizing the centrality of the land of Israel for Judaism.
Called “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable,” the document is a theological reflection that builds on five decades of interreligious dialogue that began with Nostra Aetate, a 1,600-word declaration from 1965 that helped reshape Catholic-Jewish relations.
The new document underlines the importance of Catholic-Jewish relations, calling the bond unique “in spite of the historical breach and the painful conflicts arising from it.”
Among other points, it plays down, though it does not reject entirely, missionary efforts directed at Jews.
Read it all and a BBC article is there also.
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In many Catholic and Orthodox countries, the most visible face of faith is commonly the Virgin Mary (think of Mexico’s ubiquitous Virgin of Guadalupe). Surprisingly—and counterintuitively—Mary is scarcely less venerated in Egypt, an overwhelmingly Muslim country. Unless we pay attention to Mary, we miss large portions of the religious faith and practice of the most populous Arab nation. That fact complicates many assumptions about the inevitable hostility between Christianity and Islam.
Egypt’s Christian population is variously estimated at between 5 and 10 percent, anywhere from 5 to 9 million individuals, and most are members of the ancient Coptic Church. These believers have often suffered from violence and persecution, most notoriously during the upsurge of violence that followed the military overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in 2013. Many churches were attacked, and the continuing insurgency in the country raises grave fears about future pogroms.
Despite that uncertainty, Egypt’s Christians still thrive and maintain their ancient churches and shrines. Almost certainly, historic Christian devotion to the Virgin Mary began in Egypt, which is home to countless churches dedicated to her and icons celebrating her. Egyptians point proudly to many sites that the Holy Family reputedly visited during Jesus’ childhood, some of which are major centers for pilgrimage and religious tourism. The Orthodox Christmas Day (January 7) is a national public holiday, on a par with the familiar roster of Islamic celebrations.
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There are many assumptions packed into these attacks on prayer: that all religious people, and specifically Christians, are gun supporters, and vice versa. That people who care about gun control can’t be religious, and if they are, they should keep quiet in the aftermath of yet another heart-wrenching act of violence. At one time in American history, liberals and conservatives shared a language of God, but that’s clearly no longer the case; any invocation of faith is taken as implicit advocacy of right-wing political beliefs.
The most powerful evidence against this backlash toward prayer comes not from the Twitterverse, but from San Bernardino. “Pray for us,” a woman texted her father from inside the Inland Regional Center, while she and her colleagues hid from the gunfire. Outside the building, evacuated workers bowed their heads and held hands. They prayed.
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“If ISIS is allowed to define the terms of this engagement then they’ve pretty much won the battle. We have to understand them and meet them where they’re coming from but not capitulate, not really surrender to the terror they’re trying to spread, because that’s the victory they are looking for,” says Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance.
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The truth is that the majority of Muslims are law abiding people who are horrified by the slaughter of innocents in Paris as much as anyone else. The truth though is also that all religions are not the same. We cannot separate Islam from the current crisis we face. We might like to think that it is possible to shoehorn all Islamic practice and theology into a culture of Judeo-Christian human rights, but it is not that simple. A poll earlier this year found that 3 in 10 Muslims think that their faith is incompatible with British values. Other surveys in recent years have found large minorities in favour of introducing Sharia law to the UK or that killing in the name of religion is justified. Our government is spending £40m a year on its Prevent strategy trying to stop the radicalisation of some of our Muslims in a way that our mosques are unable to do.
In an open and genuinely tolerant society, we should be able to ask the difficult questions of others with different views and beliefs and expect a productive dialogue that builds understanding and agreement. Instead we pussyfoot around too scared to criticise aspects of the Islamic faith in a way that we freely do with Christianity, for fear of being accused of Islamaphobia or racism or both.
Read it all and follow the links from the Archbishop Cranmer blog.
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Justice demands respect of the other. It plays on the collective memory of people who are in covenantal communities: Your people, too, were once vulnerable strangers in a strange land.
The command is not just to be empathetic toward strangers, which is fragile. The command is to pursue sanctification, which involves struggle and sometimes conquering your selfish instincts. Moreover, God frequently appears where he is least expected — in the voice of the stranger — reminding us that God transcends the particulars of our attachments.
The reconciliation between love and justice is not simple, but for believers the texts, read properly, point the way. Sacks’s great contribution is to point out that the answer to religious violence is probably going to be found within religion itself, among those who understand that religion gains influence when it renounces power.
It may seem strange that in this century of technology, peace will be found within these ancient texts. But as Sacks points out, Abraham had no empire, no miracles and no army — just a different example of how to believe, think and live.
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The archbishops at the meeting support Lambeth I.10 – the resolution on human sexuality from the 1998 Lambeth Conference. The Grand Imam raised changes to traditional teaching on the subject by some Anglican churches, saying that the issue in the west was seen from the viewpoint of human rights rather than a moral and ethical issue. “I personally see this as an insult to [the teaching of] Jesus Christ by one of His own churches,” he said.
The issue was also discussed when the archbishops met the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II. “We need to stand firm and keep the Church traditions,” he told them. “If this issue is a human rights one, where is God the Creator’s right?”
In their discussions, the leaders welcomed the latest achievements of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission, and particularly the historic agreed statement on Christology.
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The first challenge is leadership. A whole-of-community approach requires leadership that embraces the community. Is there an identifiable leader, whether an individual or a coalition, who is broadly accepted as such and capable of bringing together a range of stakeholders? Do they have a clear vision of the change to which they are leading the community?
The second challenge to overcome is inertia. A whole-of-community approach may require changes in how we work together, how we communicate, how we allocate finite resources - and change is rarely easy. Bureaucratic processes, political turf wars, over stretched personnel, and the time worn "that's not how we've done things in the past" can all contribute to a fairly difficult barrier of inertia. Asking the right questions and having a strong leader can ease some of these strains, but at the core of the implementation, things will have to change in order to address the challenges facing our communities.
The third challenge to successful implementation is turning competitors into partners. Government ministries compete for influence and slices of a finite budget pie. Community organisations compete for funding and recognition in the community and by opinion leaders. Service providers may compete for clients and contracts. Once potential allies are identified, having a clear strategy in place on how to build partnerships is key to a sustainable, effective whole-of-community policy initiative - facilitated by good leadership and a rich understanding of the community brought out through asking the right questions.
Countering violent extremism in Australia is challenging. In order to succeed, we have to overcome existing community tensions and divisions. The Countering Community Division policy framework is presented as a way to gather community insights and resources, facilitate in-depth analysis and understanding of the current situation, and coordinate efforts across stakeholders so that we can begin to reunite the divided and strengthen our communities to counteract further radicalisation.
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Concerned with what she calls the "increasing rhetoric about the wearing of the niqab by Muslim women," an Anglican priest in Regina decided to take matters into her own hands. She wore a hijab for a day to see what's like.
In a post on Facebook, Cheryl Toth said she's "uncomfortable with the way the debate focuses on what women wear (or decide not to wear). I am afraid that [the rhetoric] will increase hostility towards women who choose to wear a hijab, a niqab or a burka."
She said she sees her trial run with the hijab as a way "to contribute to the conversation."
She wore it around Regina including on campus at Luther College, walking around her neighbourhood, at a public lecture and while shopping at a mall.
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Maajid Nawaz...and his favourite interlocutor Sam Harris are at first sight an unlikely pair, but they are doing their best to find common ground and get their act together. Mr Nawaz is a British-born Muslim who went through a radical fundamentalist phase and was imprisoned in Egypt; two years after his release in 2006 he co-founded Quilliam, a London-based research institution which describes itself as an anti-extremism think-tank. Mr Harris is a well-known atheist public intellectual in the United States.
A short but intensive dialogue between them is being published this week as a slim volume by Harvard University Press, and we can expect to hear a lot more from them, on talk-shows and in the more cerebral parts of the print media, over the coming months. Their conversation sprang out of an initially abrasive encounter after a debate in 2010, when Mr Harris put it to Mr Nawaz that liberal-minded Muslims were engaged in a near-impossible task: proving that their faith was really a religion of peace when the tenets and scriptures of the faith suggested otherwise.
That is still, broadly speaking, what Mr Harris thinks. He sees the elaboration of a peaceful and tolerant understanding of Islam as a praiseworthy enterprise, and one that only Muslims can undertake, but he is politely sceptical of their chances of succeeding. Mr Nawaz's reply is a measured one. He says that Islam is neither a religion of peace nor a religion of war. It is simply a religion, and one that has been subject to many different interpretations over the centuries, and is still refracted in lots of different ways.
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History was made this summer at Canadian Forces Base Borden, Ont., with a unique interfaith wedding, the officiating clerics say.
On August 29, Capt. Georgette Mink, a physiotherapist in the Canadian military, was married to Ahmad Osman, a soldier in the Lebanese army. Although technically a Christian marriage, it was attended by representatives from both the Christian and Muslim religions, and was followed by a Muslim blessing of the couple.
Capt. the Rev. Dwayne Bos, the Anglican padre who officiated, said he believes other weddings may have been done in the Canadian military involving Christians and non-Christians—he has heard of some involving one Wiccan partner, for example. But the fact that clerics from both faith traditions co-performed the liturgy made this one unique, he said.
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The next point I want to make I think is one that is of increasing importance in a time when there is a certain set tendency to say that religion should be privatised. To use an old expression, many think religion should be only between consenting adults in private.
Far from it, the faith communities are those who provide the glue in society in so many ways, from their social action through to the eternal values which they reflect and support, and which eternal values are themselves the foundation for British values of which we’ve heard a lot over the last few months. Because of what the Scriptures teach us, especially from the prophet Jeremiah, we are committed to seeking the welfare of the place where we live, the common good.
Christians and Muslims are not called to a ghetto-like existence, although both our faiths have from time to time acted in that way, through fear or defensiveness. We are called by contrast to be actively involved in our society not for our own good but for the common good. We are called to seek the flourishing of the society, as Jeremiah said to the Jewish exiles: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” [
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With civil war in Syria, the emergence of ISIS, and the growing power of Iran, a new Middle East seems to be in the making. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become in some ways a sideline to these other developments. What do you see emerging out of these developments with regard to Israel/Palestine?
For the first time since the collapse of the Oslo process in 2000, I feel a small stirring of optimism and can see a way out. The defining conflict in the Middle East is no longer between Arabs and Israelis but between Sunnis and Shi‘ites. Much of the West hasn’t yet internalized this historic shift. The Saudis are now meeting regularly with Israelis and even allowing those meetings to become public knowledge. This is unprecedented.
During the Gaza War last year, even as anti-Israel demonstrations were happening in the West, Israel was receiving urgent messages from Sunni leaders demanding that it destroy the Hamas regime. Hamas is especially detested by many Sunnis for making common cause with Shi‘ite Iran—it’s the only Sunni Muslim Brotherhood organization to break ranks in the Sunni-Shi‘ite war.
All of which is to say that the Middle East looks very different from the Middle East than it does from the West. When Israelis looks around the region, what we see is that the most intact society left is Israel. I say that with more anxiety than pride, because this is the region in which I live, in which I’m raising a family. My prayer is for a Middle East in which all its peoples will find their safe place. Ultimately, the success of the Jewish homecoming depends on our finding our place in the Middle East.
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A panel of six different faiths found commonality during a religious conference that tasked its speakers to discuss God as myth or reality.
"I don't think it's possible to prove or disprove the existence of God in any rational way," said Anglican priest Peter Zimmer, who presented before an audience of about 80 people Sunday evening at the University of Northern B.C.'s Canfor Theatre for the World Religions Conference.
The question, to him, is the difference faith can make in a person's life.
Zimmer suggested all major religions attempt to answer three questions: where do we come from, where are we going, and what must we do on our way.
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The year 5,775 on the Hebrew calendar ended much the way it began: with violence at Jerusalem’s holiest site. On the morning of September 13th, hours before the Rosh Hashanah holiday began, Israeli police raided the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. A group of Palestinian worshippers emerged from the al-Aqsa mosque to pelt them with stones, and the officers responded with tear gas and sound bombs. Similar scenes have played out on the next two mornings as well.
Police said the raid was a preemptive measure ahead of the holiday, which typically brings an influx of Jewish visitors. Gilad Erdan, the public-security minister, said that pipe bombs had indeed been found inside the mosque. Twenty-six people were injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. More than 1,000 Israeli Jews ascended anyway, in spite of the violence.
The plateau, occupied by Israel during the 1967 war, is Judaism’s most sacred site, believed to be the location of the Biblical temple. Muslims revere it as the place where the Prophet Muhammad made his night journey to heaven. Under a long-standing arrangement, Muslims have exclusive rights to pray there; Jews may visit at certain times, but must worship below at the Western Wall.
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One of the great themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is that God identifies with the suffering. There are all these great texts that say things like this: If you oppress the poor, you oppress to me. I am a husband to the widow. I am father to the fatherless. I think the texts are saying God binds up his heart so closely with suffering people that he interprets any move against them as a move against him. This is powerful stuff! But Christianity says he goes even beyond that. Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s son, divinity became vulnerable to and involved in - suffering and death! He didn’t come as a general or emperor. He came as a carpenter. He was born in a manger, no room in the inn.
But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means? John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. Ok, it’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.
And lastly, we have to grasp an empowering hope for the future. In both the Hebrew Scriptures and even more explicitly in the Christian Scriptures we have the promise of resurrection....
Read it carefully (noting especially the original setting as described) and read it all.
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At the start of the 7th century, Christianity was making slow advances across much of Western Europe. Anglo-Saxon England was just receiving the faith, which had as yet made few inroads into most of the Germanic world. The Frankish lands were notionally Christian, but in a political environment so savage and chaotic that it made Game of Thrones seem as polite and domestic as Downton Abbey. For any objective observer, there was no doubt that the faith's spiritual and theological centers lay far to the east, in the surviving Roman Empire based in Constantinople, and in the Christian cultures that flourished in Persian realms. If the Christian world had a center of gravity, it was located not far from Antioch, in western Syria. The church's core languages of thought and debate were Greek, Coptic, and Syriac, with Latin an optional extra.
That was the world, then, that from the 630s experienced the sudden shock of the Arab conquests and the eruption of Islam. That point needs emphasizing because we so often view Christian history through the eyes of Europeans and specifically Latins, who would eventually dominate the church. It is easy, then, to think of the Islamic conquest as affecting the distant fringes of the "Christian world" rather than, as we now see, its heart and center.
Within a century, an Islamic empire ruled from the shores of the Atlantic deep into Central Asia, with Muslim élites a tiny minority ruling over Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. The literate and cultured Christians of the eastern lands were thus on the front lines of this epochal transformation, which they struggled to fit into their schemes of historical interpretation, their salvation history. As Michael Phillip Penn remarks, "For those interested in the history of early Christianity, ignoring the post-630s churches in the Middle East meant ignoring almost half of that period's Christians." (I would suggest well over half.)
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There was a miserable stint in the Army, mercifully shortened by a psychiatrist who thought I had no business being a soldier. There were a couple of romantic relationships with married women. Casting about for something to do, I eventually settled on studying journalism at San Francisco State University.
That’s where I found Islam. A friend introduced me to the Qur’an, and I was entranced by its words, which speak of a God who cares a great deal about the men and women he created. But it was also the people: the Palestinian and African American Muslims who first taught me what it meant to surrender. They welcomed me as no one else had before.
Some people look to faith for ideas of right and wrong, or some understanding of good and evil, or a set of principles with which to order the world. Not me. What I sought, what I ached for, was meaning and belonging. And Islam gave me both.
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Burma is a deeply religious nation—predominantly Buddhist but with big religious and ethnic minorities.
Stephen Than, the Anglican Archbishop is from the minority Karen people. During his lifetime he has faced ethnic discrimination and a crisis of faith. Archbishop Than is the subject of a new biography, Dancing With Angels, by Melbourne Anglican priest Alan Nichols.
Listen to it all (just over 13 minutes).
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With scant media attention, leading U.S. thinkers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. Mormon) and Evangelical Protestantism have been holding regular dialogue meetings the past 15 years. This is a good moment for religion writers to examine where things stand between these two dynamic faiths.
That’s because the talks are pausing temporarily as participants issue a new anthology: “Talking Doctrine: Mormons & Evangelicals in Conversation” (InterVarsity Press). The book’s editors, who’ve led the dialogue to date, are top sources for journalists: Robert Millet, former religious education dean at the LDS Brigham Young University, and Richard Mouw, retired president of Fuller Theological Seminary.
The two sides constitute the most unlikely dialogue partners imaginable, despite their concord on moral issues in the socio-political realm.
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Sacks is reported to have shied away from media appearances for the past two years so as not to overshadow his successor as chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis. However, his head is firmly back above the parapet as he challenges many who say that religion is intrinsically a cause for violence. It is another challenge altogether from that of being the head of mainstream Orthodox Judaism — during which he became probably the best-known British chief rabbi in Anglo-Jewish history. An Archbishop of Canterbury during his period in office is the principal leader of the Church of England, even though the synod can resemble the House of Commons at prime minister’s questions. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster cannot argue with the Pope. A chief rabbi has to cope not only with the deviating views of other clerics but also with members of his flock who enjoy sniping from the wings.
The resulting magnum opus has been a labour of love. “I wrote with passion and it took 12 years,” he says, adding that he has a profound belief in detail: “You can’t do microsurgery with a pneumatic drill.” He has also rewritten the book four times.
Is it a book that could have been written while he was chief rabbi? After all, The Dignity of Difference, a previous book, was severely criticised by other rabbis because it appeared to give equality to other faiths. “The Dignity of Difference was a statement of global ethics. This is a statement of what I take to be the bedrock of Abrahamic monotheism,” says Sacks, adding that his latest book is more hard hitting. “I can probably speak more forcefully now than I could, because I am putting myself on the line, not the community on the line.”
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Like 1.6 billion Muslims around the world fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, Jeff Cook has been rising before dawn each morning to have breakfast. He doesn’t eat again until breaking his fast with dinner.
But Mr. Cook isn’t Muslim, doesn’t have close Muslims friends, and has never been inside a mosque. The Christian pastor from Greeley, Colo., is fasting for the 30 days of Ramadan, which ends Friday, as part of a nascent effort among American Christians to better understand and support Muslims.
Mr. Cook posted a photo of himself on Twitter holding a sign that read: “I’m Jeff—A Christian in America. I’ll be fasting in solidarity #Christians4Ramadan.”
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Lent & Beyond has compiled a comprehensive list of resources, links and Twitter feeds of interest during Ramadan 2015, which began today. Traditionally many Christians and Christian ministries use Ramadan as a time to pray for Muslims and encourage outreach to Muslim neighbors and colleagues.
Go check out all the links.. Ramadan prayer entries during the coming month will be posted using the Ramadan 2015 tag.
Also, you can follow Lent & Beyond on Twitter
Appealing to the entire world, Pope Francis urged everyone to read his upcoming encyclical on the care of creation and to better protect a damaged earth.
“This common ‘home’ is being ruined and that harms everyone, especially the poorest,” he said June 17, the day before the Vatican was releasing his encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”
He said he was launching an appeal for people to recognize their “responsibility, based on the task that God gave human beings in creation: ‘to cultivate and care for’ the ‘garden’ in which he settled us.”
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An internationally renowned atheist activist has relocated from India to the U.S. after receiving death threats from an extremist group that has claimed responsibility for at least one of three machete killings of South Asian atheists this year.
Taslima Nasrin, a Bangladeshi gynecologist, novelist and poet, arrived in New York state last Wednesday (May 27). The move was orchestrated by the Center for Inquiry, an organization that promotes secularism and has been working with atheist activists in countries where atheism is unprotected by blasphemy laws.
“Extremist groups have been pretty public that they want Taslima killed,” said Michael de Dora, CFI’s director of public policy and president of the United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief. “In the last couple of weeks this has been ramping up and that’s why we were so concerned.”
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The five Coptic families that were last week forcefully evicted from their home village of Kafr Darwish in al-Fashn, Beni Sweif some 100km south of Cairo, are now back home and receiving warm ‘welcome home’ visits from their neighbours, Muslim and Copt. A general air of festivity and jubilation reigns as the family members settle home weeping with joy.
The five families form one extended family whose patriarch Youssef Tawfiq is 80 years old and matriarch is 75. The sons: Atef, Emad, Nour, and Ayman, are married and have their own families. They had been forced to leave the village on account of claims that Ayman Youssef Tawfiq, who currently works in Jordan while his wife and children remain in Kafr Darwish, posted cartoons offensive to the Prophet Muhammad on his Facebook page. The family says Ayman is illiterate and has no FB page; they claim he was framed and had lost his mobile phone a few days before the alleged FB posting having.
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It is religious persecution on a horrific scale, involving massacres, bombings, slavery, beheadings and mass rape.
So why don’t our churches protest against this slaughter of their own?
Yes, Christians are now the prime target of unbelievably barbaric attacks in the Middle East and Africa, yet Australia’s bishops, ministers, priests, church “social justice” units and Christian aid groups — usually so vocal — are now near mute.
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This week marks one year since Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced to 40 lashes for adultery, and death for apostasy. The campaign for her release was joined by thousands across the globe, including David Cameron, but although Ibrahim is now free, the situation for Sudan's religious minorities continues to worsen.
When the Court of Appeal declared Ibrahim innocent of all charges and released her from prison on 25 June 2014, there was cautious hope that the campaign would lead to wider respect for freedom of religion or belief in Sudan. But just five days after her acquittal, on 30 June, the Church of Christ in Thiba Al Hamyida, North Khartoum, was demolished after being given 24 hours' verbal notice.
As 2014 came to an end, religious minorities faced further restrictions. In particular, the Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church denomination (SEPC) has been embroiled in a legal battle to maintain ownership of its properties, which began with a court order to seize parts of the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church.
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In India... [Tony Joseph] suggests, Christianity is doing far worse than in most parts of the world, while Hinduism is booming. Presently, he declares, around 78 percent of Indians are Hindus.
Well, yes and no. Nobody can claim that Christianity has claimed major shares of the Indian population, or that it is likely to do so in the near future. But some counter-arguments do need to be stressed, especially about the overall numbers. No sane person believes the religious content of the Indian national census, which is one of the world’s great works of creative fiction. At all levels, there is enormous pressure of all kinds – cultural, political and bureaucratic – to minimize the presence of all non-Hindu religions, including Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. That pressure becomes overwhelming when dealing with people of low and no caste, those who are most tempted to defect to one of the alternative faiths. Bureaucrats are especially hard to convince in matters of religious conversion from Hinduism.
That matters because such low or no caste people are so very numerous. India presently has over 200 million Dalits, the so-called untouchables. If the census is failing to pick up just a few percent of those groups who have converted to other faiths, that is potentially a huge number. In consequence, the estimate of India as 78 percent Hindu represents an extreme higher-end estimate, achieved only by making that the default stance adopted and enforced by census takers and bureaucrats. I would confidently expect future estimates of Christian numbers to decline still further as the government attitudes become chillier – which has nothing whatever to do with actual numbers on the ground.
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The Primate of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Revd. Nicholas Okoh, has described the late chief Imam of the national mosque, Ustaz Musa Muhammad, as a pleasant and good natured cleric who lived a life of service to humanity and made an indelible impact on all who interacted with him.
The late Chief Imam, according to him, was a friendly person, bridge builder across religious barriers and a pleasant personality. He said the Chief Imam's death has further confirmed the transient nature of life.
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“I was very active in the progressive community in my law school, and most of my friends were politically active progressives,” he said. “But I was unprepared for their response when word started filtering out that I had enrolled in divinity school. Some of them literally disowned me; my own roommates moved out. Several folks literally stopped speaking to me and acted as if I had lost my mind.”
His own background was thrown in his face, with friends saying: “Chris, you’re a scientist, you’re a chemist, you trained as a chemist as an undergraduate, how could you possibly believe this insane stuff...?”
Coons’s message was deceptively simple: that we must find ways of “getting past some of our misunderstandings of each other.” The problem: Respecting each other on matters of faith and politics seems beyond our current capacities.
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Small, winner of two national book awards for his recent novels, will discuss “East Meets West: What the Great World Religions Can Learn from Each Other.” He will attempt to weave the key themes of his suspense novels into a serious discussion of how interfaith dialogue can enlighten people’s lives.
In today’s world, Small explained, “when the headlines are too often about the animosity between the religions, I hope to help us build bridges across these conflicts.” He attempts to do this through talks, blog posts and his fiction writing, where he feels he can reach a different audience in a nonconventional way.
Specifically, the suspense/thriller author of “visionary fiction” will attempt to answer “Why do we have so many religions? What can we learn from this knowledge? Why do we need interfaith dialogue? What are the key teachings from Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism?”
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So when Jesus says ‘No-one comes to the Father except through me’ he doesn’t mean ‘No-one can be saved except by being a card-carrying Christian’, but rather ‘No-one comes to God except by the Logos that is in them’ – that is, by following the reason and conscience that belong to everyone.
We should recognise that God can work through other faiths and philosophies too. St Paul recognised that we are all the children of God, ‘in whom we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17.28).
That is not to say that all religions are the same. The unique claim of Christianity is that in Jesus God was actually born and died as one of us.
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"It is impossible to go there, and to meet especially the children, without being determined that they must have a future," the Cardinal said.
But the task ahead is vast: regaining land from Islamic State, rebuilding ruined town and cities, establishing law and order and rebuilding society.
Nichols said that in the project to rebuild Iraq, "the presence of the Christian community is essential".
"I say that not out of a nostalgic sense that this is a Christian community that's 2,000 years old. This not a cultural, historical, or an archaeological issue. This is an issue of how do you build a stable, balanced society, in that region, and I think... the Christian presence is essential to that mosaic."
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Three decades ago, plainclothes Syrian agents went door to door in this border village seeking out young Christian men, who were abducted and killed in a notorious chapter of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war.
The village’s nearly 2,000 Christians now find themselves siding with the same Syrian regime they blame for what many call the 1978 massacre.
That is because a few miles away, hundreds of Islamist extremists tied to al Qaeda and Islamic State stalk the porous border region separating Lebanon and Syria. Standing between the militants and the village are Lebanese troops aided by the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, whose men are also fighting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Yes, I prefer the Syrian regime over these terrorist groups,” a 45-year-old Al-Qaa resident said, but it is a choice “between the bitter and more bitter.”
Read it all from the WSJ.
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A Trinitarian Theology of Religions Gerald R McDermott and Harold Netland OUP, pb...
Vatican II: Catholic Doctrines on Jews and Muslims Gavin D’Costa OUP
Alan Race once suggested that Christian approaches to other religions fall into three categories that he labelled as pluralism, exclusivism and inclusivism. Race’s typology was widely adopted but has come under strain as theological debate has progressed. It is difficult to fit either of these books into Race’s categories. Both works, one evangelical, the other Roman Catholic, are conservative but while not inclusivist they cannot be labelled exclusivist in any straightforward way. McDermott and Netland advance what they term an ‘evangelical proposal’ but their informed and clearly argued book deserves to be read by a wide audience. One of their starting points is that evangelicals have neglected the doctrine of the Trinity but, following Veli-Matti Karkkainen (who together with Lamin Sanneh, Vinoth Ramachandra and Christine Shirrmacher comments on the book’s proposals), they are sceptical of those theologians who have attempted to isolate the work of the persons of the Trinity and see the Spirit active in other religions. “Other religions,” they write of the Trinity, “may have some connection with God but it is always with that tri-personal God and no other.” D’Costa is quoted arguing that the presence of the Spirit outside the church is always to be seen as Trinitarian and ecclesial, drawing people towards Christ and towards incorporation in his body, the church.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Globalization Multiculturalism, pluralism Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Churches Evangelicals Roman Catholic * Theology Christology The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
For at least two or three generations of Americans, we have been taught in our government schools and through the institutions of influence in our society that all moral categories are nothing more than personal (or societal) preferences where every moral value claim is simply one’s opinion, all of which are equal (well, except for Christian traditionalists). Further, as we see in Mr. Obama’s perception of the Christian faith, religion is no longer a proper basis for morality. As has been observed by many, the Holy Bible, even more than Enlightenment thinking, directed the values of the Founders and the views of generations of Americans. However, for the past several generations, Americans are taught to rely upon their “feelings” to determine how to behave. It is a truism that all of us have a theology; the only question is whether it’s true or false. Ultimately and fundamentally, if we get it wrong about the Lord Jesus, it doesn’t matter what else we get right. As Randy Alcorn once powerfully observed, “Americans embrace democratic ideals. This gives us the illusion that we should have a voice when it comes to truth. But the universe isn’t a democracy. Truth isn’t a ballot measure.” Yes, it would be quite arrogant if Christians were the ones who came up with the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ on one’s life. But we didn’t; we are simply repeating what the Lord Jesus said. If it were merely our thinking, wouldn’t we come up with something far more popular?
Read it all and the transcript of the full 2004 interview referenced is there.
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On Easter, the holiest of holy days for Christians, a historic downtown Lutheran congregation will be worshiping not in a church but in a synagogue.
At 8 a.m. and again at 11 a.m., members of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church will gather in Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim’s historic synagogue during Passover to celebrate what Christians believe is the resurrection of the long-promised Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ.
It’s not the first time the members of KKBE have loaned their sanctuary at 90 Hasell St. to Christians. And it probably won’t be the last.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Easter Parish Ministry * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Judaism * South Carolina
Last month I visited the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan known as Za’atari. With 80,000 occupants, the camp would be the fourth-largest city in Jordan. It occupies a vast desert plain, filled with endless rows of tents that are gradually being replaced with rows of metal-sided caravans. Za’atari is a dreary place, but it is teeming with resilient people.
Residents of camps like Za’atari make up only 20% of the nearly four million refugees who have fled Syria. The rest live in cities, where they are often unregistered and therefore ineligible for services. These refugees tend to live in squalor and are vulnerable to exploitation. Nearly 80% of the refugees are women and children. These figures don’t include the 12.2 million within Syria who are either internally displaced or in urgent need of help.
About 200,000 people have been killed in Syria, many after torture. A photographer, who documented these horrors for the regime but defected, smuggled his photos out of Syria; they were passed on to me by a Syrian non-governmental organization. These emaciated, disfigured corpses could be skeletal Jewish inmates photographed during the liberation of Dachau, but they aren’t. They are Syrian Muslims and Christians—and this is happening now.
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Religious practice can certainly be targeted as a pursuit of the hopeful, the faith-based and the uncertain. But they badly overreach when they attack the intellectual underpinnings of Judeo-Christianity, from the ancient Judaic scholars and the Apostles to Augustine to Aquinas to Newman; deny the existence of any spiritual phenomena at all; debunk the good works and cultural creativity and conservation of the major religion; and deny that the general religious message of trying conscientiously to distinguish right from wrong as a matter of duty and social desirability is the supreme criterion of civilization. The theists defend their basic position fairly easily and only get into heavy weather when they over-invest in the literal truth of all the scriptures — though the evidence for veracity of the New Testament is stronger than the skeptics admit, including of Christ’s citations of God himself: “And God said …”
It is in the nature of the world that we don’t know, but the decline of Christianity is much more of a delusion than God is and even more wishful, and the serious defenders of a divine intelligence such as the delightful John Lennox almost always win the argument, as he did with Dawkins and the rest. There is a long way between these two poles, and agnosticism is a much more rigorous position than the belligerence of the proselytizing atheists, but that is not a stance that stirs serious people to militancy. They have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
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A priest in the diocese of Southwark who opened us his church for Muslim prayers has apologised after being told that this was not permitted within a consecrated building.
The Vicar of St John's, Waterloo, the Canon Giles Goddard, said on Tuesday that the event had caused "great consternation", and he apologised for "the offence caused and any infringement of Church of England's framework and guidelines".
The prayers were held on 6 March as part of the Inclusive Mosque Initiative, in the run-up to International Women's Day. They were led by Dr Amina Wadud who campaigns for gender justice in Islam. Men and women sat alongside one another in the church.
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Complaints about the service prompted a meeting on 10 March 2015 between Canon Goddard and the Bishop of Kingston-on-Thames, the Rt. Rev. Richard Cheetham -- who also services as Anglican president of the Christian Muslim Forum. After the meeting Canon Goddard gave an interview to Ruth Gledhill of Christian Today stating everything his church did was legal and within bishops' guidelines.
He added: ‘It is very much about St John’s being a place of welcome. We understand God as a generous God, a God who celebrates love and celebrates life.”
‘We try and make sure we live that out. In that sense we feel very properly Anglican.’
However, Dr. Gerald Bray, director of research at the Latimer Trust at Oak Hill Theological College in London questioned Canon Goddard’s views about Islam and Christianity. Writing on Facebook he said: “The simple truth is that Islam is the only major world religion that is explicitly anti-Christian. The Buddha, for example, could not have known anything about Jesus and did not develop his ideas in contrast to Christ. Muhammad, on the other hand, knew about Christians and Jews and could easily have become one or the other himself. Instead, he concocted his own religion based on elements of Judaism and Christianity and regarded it is the culmination (perfection) of both. You could say that Islam is related to Christianity in much the same way as Mormonism is, but this does not constitute 'a common tradition’.”
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The Archbishop of Canterbury...[Tuesday] night hosted a reception for inter-religious and community leaders at Lambeth Palace.
Speaking at the annual event, which brings together members different faith groups to foster relationships, Archbishop Justin Welby reflected on the theme of reconciliation, which is one of his ministry priorities.
The event was attended by a wide range of people from Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Jain and Christian traditions.
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Forces from the group calling itself Islamic State launched a fresh offensive to overrun a string of Christian towns in northeastern Syria on Saturday, setting off violent clashes with local fighters mobilized against the militants.
A mixture of Assyrian Christians and Kurds fought off the Islamic State assault, activist groups said, just a week after extremists took about 250 people in the area—many women, children and elderly men.
The contested towns are along the Khabur river in al-Hasaka province, a strategic gateway that would help Islamic State consolidate territory it holds in Iraq and Syria. The population of the area is predominately Christian, while the Kurds are a minority.
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These are bad times for outspoken sceptics in countries where religion is brutally enforced, either by governments or fanatics with a self-appointed mission. Last week the atheist blogger Avijit Roy, who was of Bangladeshi origin but lived in the United States, was hacked to death at a book fair in Dhaka. It has been reported in Saudi Arabia that a young man in his twenties has been sentenced to death after he posted a video of himself ripping up a copy of the Koran.
In the far more comfortable environment of the United States, meanwhile, religious believers and sceptics denounce one another as though they were the greatest banes of one another’s lives. Atheists claim, perhaps correctly, that they face huge societal pressure not to declare their position, especially if they have any hopes of running for public office. Some religious believers say they face a liberal-humanist conspiracy to deny them the freedom to act out their beliefs, whether as employers, employees or in places of education.
But a physically courageous atheist from a Muslim-majority land says that a few months in America have reinforced his belief that believers and sceptics can and should deal courteously with one another and work together for freedom in places where it is dreadfully violated. Maikel Nabil Sanad, a young Egyptian blogger and protest leader, spent nearly a year in prison, enduring physical abuse and a hunger strike, before his release in January 2012.
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Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1877/78-1960) wended his way into my doctoral research in 1999. Ian Markham commenced his study of Nursi in 2002. Of the relatively short list of English-language scholarly books about Nursi, several contain an essay by one or both of us. Markham, however, has gone steps farther than I. He included a chapter on Nursi in his Theology of Engagement (Blackwell, 2003); and significantly, of the English-language scholarly books on Nursi, Markham’s name is on the front cover of three, including the two texts under review here.
Who is Nursi? A Kurdish-Turkish scholar and spiritual leader, his public career overlapped two world wars, the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, and Turkey’s subsequent efforts to establish a different kind of government and national identity. His disciples — an extensive global community — see him as an Islamic restorationist, a God-sent reviver of the religion for the 20th century and beyond. Hence, they often refer to him by the honorific Bediuzzaman, that is, Wonder of the Age. His disciples are ardent students of his legacy, having produced more than 5,000 pages of thematically organized Qur’an commentary, practical spiritual guidance, and correspondence, most of which is published as the multi-volume Risale-i Nur (Epistles of Light). Nursi’s biography is compelling; but wading into his Risale can be daunting. He has his modern-day detractors, the government of Russia among them. Ian Markham’s Nursi projects offer guidance toward understanding and appreciation of Bediuzzaman.
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A vision to create "one of the most significant interfaith centres in the world" in the City of London was unveiled on Wednesday night at the launch of a £20-million fund-raising appeal.
The planned centre, Coexist House, is the idea of Dr David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge; and is supported by the Inner Temple, the Corporation of the City of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Coexist Foundation.
"Coexist House is designed as much for a secular audience as a religious audience and will not promote any one particular faith," the trustees say in a summary of their feasibility study. "It is a civic endeavour which would improve the way people understand religions and beliefs in all their variety. Nevertheless, it will offer a spiritual space, hospitable to all, in the heart of London."
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Given that the connection of Islam to Muslim-majority cultures is particularly strong, does there not need to be, nevertheless, a proper distinction between religion and culture? Should not this be so, even if many cultural practices and values are derived from a particular religious tradition? The problem with identifying culture entirely with religion is that contextualization can begin to look very much like capitulation. The issue becomes sharply focused in the debate about “insiders,” or followers of Jesus within Muslim communities who maintain their Muslim identity. To what extent has there been conversion if people continue to participate in the salat (ritual prayer), make the shahada (the Muslim profession of faith), derive their knowledge of Jesus and devotion to him mainly from the Qur’an and the Hadith, and so on? Other questions concern the relation of communities of such followers (if they are in communities) to other local churches and the worldwide church. Also, how are persons and cultures to be transformed by the Gospel if the status quo ante is largely maintained? There remain serious questions about whether such communities or persons will be allowed to survive within the Dar al-Islam (House of Islam).
We must remember that evangelists and missionaries stand within the apostolic tradition and are not semidetached from it or outside it altogether. This means, for instance, not making up elements of contextualization but using the rich and varied sources of Christian tradition—for example, in patterns of worship, liturgy, the public reading of the Scriptures, and forms of private devotion. In Islamic contexts, we are particularly fortunate that so much has been taken from Eastern Christian traditions and can be reappropriated without violence to the integrity of the Gospel. The problem sometimes is that Western Christian missionaries, and even Westernized indigenous Christians, are unaware of this rich heritage waiting on their doorstep or are suspicious of it. In some places, Islam is an import into an existing Christian culture; elsewhere, both Christianity and Islam have come from outside. Whatever the case, rich resources for inculturation are available because of the historic interaction between Muslims and Christians. Let us use them!
The book represents a brave attempt at assessing the many opportunities and problems for Christian witness in Muslim contexts. I hope it is only the beginning and that some of the issues raised in this review essay will be tackled at the next conference and in any publications that result from it.
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India said on Tuesday that his government would not “accept violence against any religion, on any pretext” and that it would take forceful steps to prevent and prosecute such crimes, in a speech widely interpreted as a response to a series of attacks on Roman Catholic churches in and around New Delhi.
“My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the minority or the majority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly,” Mr. Modi said at a New Delhi ceremony to honor the recent canonization of two Indians by the Vatican. “I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.”
For weeks, church officials and rights campaigners have urged Mr. Modi to address a growing sense of insecurity among the country’s religious minorities, which include large populations of Muslims and Christians.
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In an attempt to find a peaceful alternative for those in the Islamic world who advocate violence for political and religious goals, Christians in the West shouldn’t distort the history of Christianity, or stand idly by while others do so. Letting this version of events shape perceptions of Christian history invariably means a portrait of religion as a force of darkness, while science and technology will always be beacons of sanity and light.
The narrative portraying religious conviction as antithetical to reasoned comity among people and nations is easy enough to fall into. At the national prayer breakfast last week, for instance, President Obama compared the excesses of the Crusades and the Inquisition to the terrorism of today’s radical Islam. The president went on to condemn (rightly) those who advance their religious convictions with violence.
But what he and many others miss is the conviction that Western core values come from a faith in which God enters into human history precisely to save the world from the erring reason that fails, among other things, to recognize that terrorism is an affront to God and humanity.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury said he was “often deeply embarrassed” by some failings of the Church of England in tackling anti-Semitism,
Justin Welby said people should be shocked by the rise in anti-Semitism and described it as “blasphemy”, as he hosted the launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism at Lambeth Palace.
The Archbishop said the spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK and the Paris terror attack on a Jewish supermarket had made the report more timely. “The need for increased police patrolling of Jewish neighbourhoods in response to security concerns was a “peculiar and remarkable obscenity when we are in the midst of commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz”, he said.
The problem of anti-Semitism was “deeply embedded in our history and the culture of Western Europe”, the Archbishop acknowledged as he praised the all-party group for highlighting “the stark reality of rising anti-Semitism in this country and the key responses necessary to counter it”.
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The Prince of Wales has described the extent to which young people are becoming radicalised as "alarming" and one of the "greatest worries".
In an interview with Radio 2's The Sunday Hour, Prince Charles spoke of his hopes to "build bridges" between different faiths.
He also spoke of his "deep concern" for the suffering of Christian churches in the Middle East.
He is currently in Jordan on a six-day tour of the region.
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The selflessness of four Army chaplains who saved others aboard a sinking ship during World War II continues to serve as an example to pursue "greater service," speakers said at a ceremony Sunday.
On Feb. 3, 1943, the U.S. Army Transport ship Dorchester, bound for Greenland, began sinking after an attack from the German submarine U-223. Four Army chaplains helped usher passengers to safety and ultimately gave up their own life jackets - and lives - to save others. In all, 230 out of 904 people aboard the Dorchester survived.
On Sunday afternoon, about 40 people honored the chaplains at the Peter Gallan American Legion Post 104. American Legion member Dennis A. Baptiste served as the master of ceremonies during the event that featured the parade of colors, the national anthem and speeches.
The event focused on the legacy of the four chaplains: Lt. George Fox, a Methodist minister; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, a rabbi; Lt. John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic priest; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reformed Church minister.
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However, the dean of Duke Divinity School, Richard Hays, raised concerns about the use of the chapel for the Muslim call to prayer if it’s seen as a Christian church (given its history and iconography), rather than a neutral space on campus.
“There are serious questions...about the wisdom and propriety of allowing Duke chapel to be used for this purpose,” he said in a statement. “Despite some common beliefs and traditions, Christianity and Islam stand in significant theological tension with one another.”
Durham resident and author Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove wrote that while he was “glad Duke Chapel hosts a vibrant Christian congregation,” he did not see the space as holy ground.
“The Dukes are buried in the crypt, not saints. Robert E. Lee's statue is in the entryway. Muslim prayers would not desecrate ground marked by the blood of Christian martyrs,” he wrote. “It would, instead, be an act of hospitality to hallow a messy place.”
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Good morning. The British Museum opened its doors on this day in 1759, the first national public museum in the world. Sir Hans Sloane had gathered 71,000 artefacts from many parts of the world and these formed the core of the collection. 5,000 visitors a year to begin with has grown to six million annually now. As success stories go, the British Museum is hard to beat.
I must have been eleven when I first went there. I recall being surprised that not everything in the British Museum came from Britain. My juvenile and literal mind needed broadening. Fortunately my education provided windows onto different cultures and histories. At places like the British Museum many of us realise how much we have to learn from countries we’ve never visited, people we’ve never met and things which happened long before we were born.
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(For detailed information on the bill, you may go here)-KSH.
I shall not address the elements of the Bill in exhaustive detail. Others have far greater expertise in each of the areas concerned. However, I want to make some points about the Bill’s provisions in their own terms. As I do so, I believe that it is important to step back and see the proposed changes in the context of broader trends in how we live, govern ourselves and seek to ensure the security of our people.
I begin where local churches begin: trying, under God, to be agents of reconciliation; building communities marked by trust, mutual respect and care, and not by fear and suspicion. In many places, faith communities are coming together to build understanding and break down prejudice and stereotypes. Yesterday, in response to events in Paris, in my previous diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, faith leaders from Muslim, Jewish, Christian and other communities enacted a day of fasting as a sign of mutual commitment and dependence on God in seeking peace for all. They stood in solidarity with one another. In my current diocese of Durham, where the numbers of adherents to faiths other than Christianity are relatively small, work is continually done by the faith communities in places such as Sunderland, Gateshead, South Shields, Stockton and Darlington to build strong community relationships. The Near Neighbours programme nationally has had a significant impact on every place in which it is run.
This groundswell of community building is, and is seen by faith groups as, the most powerful force against radicalisation, especially among young people, on whom so much of the sense of risk tends to be focused. The Department for Communities and Local Government is doing some excellent work supporting local initiatives in this field. Groups with wider knowledge than local churches, such as the Quilliam Foundation, emphasise that this type of work in the community is vital to the Prevent Strategy.
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Emblematic of this, in the Gospel infancy narratives, is King Herod. Feeling his authority threatened by the Child Jesus, he orders all the children of Bethlehem to be killed. We think immediately of Pakistan, where a month ago, more than a hundred children were slaughtered with unspeakable brutality. To their families I wish to renew my personal condolences and the assurance of my continued prayers for the many innocents who lost their lives.
The personal dimension of rejection is inevitably accompanied by a social dimension, a culture of rejection which severs the deepest and most authentic human bonds, leading to the breakdown of society and spawning violence and death. We see painful evidence of this in the events reported daily in the news, not least the tragic slayings which took place in Paris a few days ago. Other people “are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects” (Message for the 2015 World Day of Peace, 8 December 2014, 4). Losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion. These are dangers which I pointed out in my recent Message for the World Day of Peace, which dealt with the issue of today’s multiple forms of enslavement. All of them are born of a corrupt heart, a heart incapable of recognizing and doing good, of pursuing peace.
It saddens us to see the tragic consequences of this mentality of rejection and this “culture of enslavement” (ibid., 2) in the never-ending spread of conflicts. Like a true world war fought piecemeal, they affect, albeit in different forms and degrees of intensity, a number of areas in our world, beginning with nearby Ukraine, which has become a dramatic theatre of combat. It is my hope that through dialogue the efforts presently being made to end the hostilities will be consolidated, and that the parties involved will embark as quickly as possible, in a renewed spirit of respect for international law, upon the path of mutual trust and fraternal reconciliation, with the aim of bringing an end to the present crisis.
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“We are in a situation that is a situation of war.” The words of Roger Cukierman, head of the main Jewish representative body in France, reverberated on Sunday at the end of a week that had seen a vulnerable community shattered by the deaths of several Jews in a series of terrorist incidents.
“Jews are very afraid,” says Emmanuelle, a young Jew, who like many did not want her last name used. “There is a real, justified paranoia.”
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It is unbelievable that a modern democracy only managed to get round to disposing of these embarrassing laws so recently, but I find it even more shocking that a de facto blasphemy law is operating in Britain today.
The fact is that publishers and newspapers live in fear of criticising Islam. BBC guidelines, we have learnt recently, forbade the publication of images of the founder of Islam, even though this prohibition has not always been universal or absolute in Muslim history. Hastily revising its own guidelines, the BBC has now re-entered the 21st century, even picturing a Charlie Hebdo front cover on Newsnight featuring a cartoon of Muhammad.
Yet since 1988 and the hounding of Salman Rushdie and his publishers over The Satanic Verses, there has been a threat over free speech posed by radical and political Islam. I wish back then we had dealt with it. Every publisher and newspaper at the time throughout the world should have concertedly published extracts from The Satanic Verses to spread the risk and challenge extremist notions of blasphemy and apostasy, which surely apply only to consenting Islamic believers and not to ‘kaffirs’ and ‘heretics’?
Yet since 1988, the spectre of extremist censorship has reared its ugly head time and time again.
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The terrorist attack in France that targeted a satirical weekly, killing 12 people, has seen an outpouring of solidarity, both in France and around the world, in defense of shared values of free speech and tolerance.
But at the same time, the attack has given new fodder to Europe's burgeoning populist movements – in a way that could prevent mainstream leaders from easing the tensions in their countries magnified by the assault on the magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Rising resentments across Europe call for leaders to act inclusively against Islamophobia, experts say. But the Continent's populist swing, already eating away at support for mainstream parties, could extract a greater political cost than European leaders are willing to make.
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On most afternoons, Mor Barsaumo, a honey-colored, fifth-century stone church nestled in a warren of slanted streets, draws a crowd. In the narrow courtyard, old men smoke cigarettes and drink coffee, while children kick a soccer ball across the stone floor. In a darkened classroom, empty except for a few desks, a teacher gives private lessons in Syriac, derived from Aramaic, the language of Christ.
And now, the refugees also come.
Advised by relatives or other refugees, newcomers to Midyat often make the steps of the church their first stop. Midyat and its environs—known in Syriac as Tur Abdin, “mountain of the servants of God”—are the historical heartland of the Middle East's widely dispersed Syriac Orthodox Christian community. Now the region has become a haven as the fighting in Syria and Iraq has forced Christians to flee their homes.
“All Syriac Christians come here. Most of the aid is delivered from here,” says Ayhan Gürkan, a deacon at Mor Barsaumo and a member of the Tur Abdin Syriac Christians Committee, set up to look after Midyat’s Christian refugees.
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“Yet, at this time of great peril, I deeply regret that the British Government seems to be stepping back, rather than stepping up,” writes Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander in The Sunday Telegraph, as he juxtaposed the “no room at the inn” of the Nativity with the horrors being meted out on Christians in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and Sudan. “Just like anti-Semitism or Islamaphobia, anti-Christian persecution must be named for the evil that it is, and challenged systematically by people of faith and of no faith,” he exhorted.
And he pledged that an incoming Labour government will establish a Global Envoy for Religious Freedom along with a multifaith advisory council on religious freedom within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office: “Supporting the newly appointed Global Envoy, this will help ensure a strong focus within the Foreign Office,” he assures. And he lauded Baroness Warsi for her commitment to faith and human rights and “the leadership she showed and the seriousness with which she took her responsibilities”, which was, he submits, “widely recognised...”.
The Archbishop of Canterbury was so impressed with this homily that he dared to tweet it out to his 68.3k followers, which caused alarm and dismay to some condescending Tories, as though Justin Welby were being indelicately partisan and unacceptably inattentive to the constitutional constraints of his Office. He didn’t endorse any specific content: all he said was that it was “good debate”, yet this is inexplicably deemed to be “poor judgment by Lambeth Palace” (though the Palace didn’t tweet it: the Archbishop did).
We’ve been here before, of course. Last Christmas the tweeting was uncharitably critical of the Archbishop for not being “disciplined” in speaking about Jesus, which was laughably unjustifiable.
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Pakistan was still reeling Sunday from a devastating attack on a military-run school in Peshawar that left 132 children dead.
Shortly after the Dec. 16 attack Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani acknowledged responsibility for the attack, saying suicide bombers had carried out the attack as revenge for the killings of Taliban members by Pakistani authorities.
Just five days after the massacre, Pakistani Christians were not going to let the Taliban have the last word. Dressed in Santa Claus outfits and holding signs that read "United we stand in grief and sorrow," dozens gathered in Karachi, Pakistan to protest the attack.
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KIM LAWTON, correspondent: Southeastern Turkey shares a 500-mile-long border with Syria. On this day, the view into Syria looks quiet, peaceful even. But just a few miles from here, Syrian government forces, rebel groups and ISIS are waging a brutal battle for control. So far, nearly 1.6 million Syrians have sought safety in Turkey, and more are coming every day.
SAVAS METIN, Kimse Yok Mu: They escaped from this conflict with their own clothes. They couldn’t bring any kind of stuff, their belongings, together with them. They just escaped. They left everything behind.
LAWTON: Since the beginning of Syria’s civil war in March 2011, nearly 11 million people have been forced to flee from their homes. Almost eight million are displaced inside Syria, while three and a quarter million have ended up in neighboring countries. Daryl Grisgraber focuses on the Middle East for the advocacy group Refugees International.
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She took the call herself the night the Islamic State came into Mosul. ‘Convert or leave or you’ll be killed,’ she was told. The callers, identifying themselves as Isis members, knew the household was Christian because her husband worked as a priest in the city. They fled that night.
Like many of their Christian neighbours they sought refuge in the monastery of St Matthew. But Isis took that over, tore down the Cross, smashed all Cross-decorated windows, used it for their own prayers and flew their black flag on top of the church. Across what was Nineveh, Iraq’s Christians spent this year fleeing from village to village, hoping to find safety somewhere.
This woman’s husband and son continued their ministry among the scattered congregations of Iraq. But the wife, who took the call, is now in west London. We spoke there one Sunday morning earlier this year. To attend the morning service in a Syriac church and hear the Lord’s Prayer uttered in the original Aramaic in which Jesus taught it is profoundly moving at any time. But this year the prayers of this beleaguered congregation of Iraqi Christians in Acton have taken on a terrible, plaintive urgency.
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More than a thousand participants carried touches and banners through the Christmas-decorated streets of Vienna, with messages such as “Freedom of Religion is a Human Right”, “100 millions Christians suffer persecution”, “Stop the Genocide against Christians”, and not least the leading banner with the text “Murder — Rapes — Burning churches — Forced Islamization”, a clear protest against Islamist behaviour in many countries. The march was led by a priest holding a large crucifix, while Dr. Elmar Kuhn of CSI gave a speech while walking. The Maltese Church, which is located in the middle of the march, was rang its bells in support.
In addition to the usual flyers with information about the situation, the organizers also distributed buttons with the Arabic letter ‘N’. This is the sign that Islamic State and other Islamists paint on the walls of homes and other property belonging to Christians, marking them as targets of attacks, abductions, killing and destruction — a sign now used extensively in the formerly Christian country of Syria. This practice strongly resembles the methods used by German national socialists during the 1930’s to mark up Jewish property. This is a cause of reflection in times where Christians even in the West frequently need police protection due to their conversion from Islam, or due to being too clear and outspoken in their criticism of Islamic ideology.
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Archbishop Welby says while the event in the Vatican was a unique event, bringing together so many different religious leaders, it's also crucial to build on that momentum with a programme of implemention and he says he believes the Global Freedom Network has the ability to do that.....
In the Church of England, he says, two dioceses are already very involved in teaching and training people in awareness of this issue to help people ask questions of how they invest, where they buy things from and where those goods might be made.....
In the modern slavery bill currently going through the British parliament, he notes, there are obligations on retailers to look at their supply chains....the Anglican leader also says he's been involved in running ethical funds and has seen first hand the impact that they can have on pressuring retailers to stop the use of slavery in the manufacturing supply chains....
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